Do you know about the 80/20 rule? Its official name is the Pareto Principle and it basically states that you use 20% of your stuff 80% of the time. It applies to many levels: 80% of the world's wealth is held by 20% of the people, or 80% of all traffic occurs during 20% of the time. Why is this important to you? Well, it shows how most things in our lives are not distributed evenly. In regards to paper, I'm willing to bet that only 20% of it floating around your house is important, while 80% of it is not. Yet, you probably spend 80% of your time constantly touching, moving around, and misplacing your papers, when you should be doing it quickly the first time you touch them and spending only a mere 20% of your time.
If you read our post on setting up a Command Center, then a great deal of your time wasting problem is solved right there. If you haven't, you really need to do yourself a favor and set one up to save yourself a huge headache. Once you've set up your command center, your active papers should be under control... but what about the archived stuff? Archived papers are documents that you need to keep long term but don't need to access on a regular basis.
You can set up several different systems for your archived papers or one giant one depending on your needs and wishes. Most people create a filing system in a filing cabinet for the bulk of their papers, but use other systems (like a separate address book, password book, or a box/binder for manuals) for things they might access a bit more often. However you always have the option of storing everything in one system and seeing if that works for you. In fact, the two filing systems we recommend, File Solutions and Freedom Filer, have pre-made categories for everything you could ever want to store, including magazine articles, addresses, manuals, photos and more.
Some of the categories of archived papers that you might have are:
Addresses & Contact Information
Vital Records - marriage license, birth certificate, SS card
Financial Records - bank accounts, retirement accounts
Only you can decide what's best for your household to keep track of these papers. You can set up several systems or one big one, but whatever you do, please have something in place more substantial than some cardboard boxes in a closet. You don't even have to use the systems with the pretty labels like we suggested - you can hand write your categories on manila folders placed in hanging folders in a filing cabinet. Just please do something that allows you the access you need when you need it. Nothing is more annoying than trying to find a single piece of paper you misplaced months ago, especially when you are in a hurry.
Here are some more useful recommendations:
Keep only a copy of your vital records in a filing cabinet and place the originals in a safe or safety deposit box.
Use a system that makes sense for everyone who accesses your archived papers - will you file your vehicle information under V for vehicle, C for car, or under the name of the make or model?
Do a walkthrough for everyone accessing these papers after the reorganization is complete so there is no question about where papers belong.
Decide if you will follow a pre-made system or create your own. If you are doing it yourself, pick your organizational method - file alphabetically, by the date, or whatever you choose, but be consistent.
Make a group decision to place the newest items in a folder in either the front or the back, but not both. Decide now before your pretty new system gets all jumbled up.
As you are going through your system, purge anything outdated (old utility bills, taxes older than 7 years, outdated checkbook registers, or paperwork on cars you no longer own) and set it aside for recycling or shredding. If you don't own a shredder, bring it to Office Depot/Office Max and get it shredded for you by the pound.
If you have any questions during your project, please email us for help and we will be glad to offer up any other advice we have. Good luck with your paper!